Thursday, April 27, 2017

Chicken Thighs with Mustard over Rice and Kale

Rice versus beans. Which is your preference? Like potatoes, both are staples of world cuisine and survival!

This recipe originally began with white beans. And lemon. And capers. And Dijon mustard. Since I am not a mustard fan, I unexpectedly fell in love with this succulent and savory mustard-coated chicken. It was a wonderful surprise!

The bean mixture ... not so much. The texture was "rough" and a bit "gritty." It certainly needed more time to soften and to mature in the oven than called for in the original recipe. Worst? All those savory, Sunday chicken drippings were drowned in the overpowering acidity of capers and lemon. Yuck!

And, I wanted something GREEN in it.

I spent several days challenging the cuisine-side of my brain for additions/cooking times to the beans.

Then, I had a culinary revelation: Just get rid of the beans! Use rice!

But, for one or two people, making rice is tedious. Dirty up another pan... and for what?

Enter Uncle Ben's Ready Rice. Instead of opening up a can of beans -- I opened up a packet of this miracle product!

I love this product. It comes in many flavors, including plain.
Throw it in the microwave and it is done in 90 seconds. No pot to clean up. If using it in a baking recipe (such as this one), just throw it in the casserole dish right from the packet and allow it to cook in the oven along with the rest of the ingredients.

So, instead of the beans, I simply substituted this easy wild rice and added some chopped kale, onion, butter and Parmesan cheese. Delicious! I now add two packets of this rice. One is Long Grain. The other is Original.

But, don't stop there. Once, I also added a jar of drained mushrooms along with the rice-kale-onion-cheese mixture. Once, I added baby fingerlings, cut razor-thin so they would bake tender, along with the rice and kale. This is one recipe where you can get creative. Artichoke hearts? Why not? Spinach? Of course!

Here I used rice, kale and thinly-sliced purple potatoes.

This is an easy, one-dish meal. I do not recommend chicken breasts for this recipe. I once used bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and the results paled in comparison to the bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Why? The latter made the best basting juices for the rice/cheese mixture.

It is important to liberally season the underside of the chicken thighs. I always add a bit of dried, crushed thyme to any chicken recipe! Bell's seasoning is the BEST! If not available, use your favorite poultry seasoning.

Cavender's all-purpose Greek seasoning, which is pretty much available in most American grocery stores, is also favorably added as an extra ingredient.

Be sure to completely cover the rice mixture with chicken so the edges do not dry out. Do not go out of the lines!

  • 3-4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on OR two chicken-leg quarters
  • 1 packet Uncle Ben's Ready Rice (Long Grain and Wild variety) and or
  • 1 packet Uncle Ben's Ready Rice (Original)
  • 4-6 large kale leaves, stripped from rib and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced onion or shallot (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 liberal tablespoons fresh-grated Parmesan/Romano cheese (I confess, I use the canned with great results)
  • 3-4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Chicken seasoning of your choice (but always include a bit of thyme)
  • 10 x 7 casserole dish
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper 

Preheat oven to 425 F degrees.

Lightly grease a 10 x 7 ceramic or glass casserole dish.

Using a paring knife, make half-way slits along each side the length of the thigh bone. Do not cut all the way through. You just want to separate the meat from the main bone. Why? The thigh will cook in half the time.

Liberally season top and underside of chicken thighs with choice of seasonings.
Add rice packet(s) to casserole dish. Add greens/onion, garlic powder, cheese.

Massage the butter into rice mixture. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.

Place chicken thighs on top of rice mixture. Coat each thigh with 1 tablespoon mustard. Sprinkle with a bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Place casserole in the upper third of the oven. Roast for 35 minutes or until 165 F degrees. If desired, place under broiler for just a minute or so to blister the chicken.

(Update! I have since brought this recipe to work and baked it in the Deli Oven. Verdict? Total Silence! My co-workers loved it! Even I was surprised. Why? I used double the chicken thighs, so double the juices to season the rice.  Better than any dried-out turkey on any holiday! The rice, as one said, "Amazing!")

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sloppy Joes in the Instant Pot

If it ain't sloppy, it ain't no Joe! Oh, YEA!

Squishy, soft bun is a necessity. The "sloppy" is an indulgent, rich, smoky-burst of tomato-based barbecue flavor.

Add some finely-chopped sweet onion! Even cheese!

Or just go naked. Chips ... Of course! Note the rich mahogany color from adding brown sugar.

The rural, Midwestern, middle-school cafeteria where I taught for 14 years served up Sloppy Joe's I remember to this day! Often, they were served with "government-issue" sticks of yellow cheese. Good cheese, I might add. Or tater tots.

This recipe is based on that cafeteria-memory ... but with a bit more of an adult palate.

An authentic Sloppy Joe has well-balanced, complex flavors: A rich vinegar/tomato base that plays against a saucy, smoky, brown-sugar sweetness. Just a bit of heat. And of, course, it has to be sloppy!

I've tried this recipe with: Ketchup. Barbecue sauce. Chili sauce. Taste test after taste test, I have settled on a forgotten, classic, American staple. Heinze 57 Sauce.

I use the one in the glass bottle.

I like a bit of heat, so I added one tablespoon of A1 Sweet Red Chili with Garlic Sauce. If you don't have that on hand, a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce should do the trick or use what I suggest in the recipe ingredients below.

I have now made this recipe several times. Just today, I had a young associate who works with me at the grocery store try them out. He said he wanted to "lick the container." 'Nough said.

The pressure cooker just does something to amalgamate all these flavors. Without a pressure cooker? Just slow simmer on the stove for an hour or so. Monitor the thickness.

  • 1.25-1.50 lb ground chuck, 80/20 mix
  • 1 cup diced red or yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons dried, minced onion
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 6-8  tablespoons light brown sugar (start with lesser amount)
  • 1 tablespoon A1 Sweet Red Chili with Garlic Sauce*
  • OR
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (add a pinch of Cayenne)
  • Heinz 57 Sauce, 3/4 cup (add a bit more if needed)
  • 1, 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar (start with lesser amount)
  • 3/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

In the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker, saute fresh onion, pepper, celery, in butter and olive oil set on medium saute mode just until onion begins to brown. Add garlic and smoked paprika. Stir and cook a few minutes more. Add meat. Stir and incorporate until pink disappears.

Add wet ingredients. Add mustard powder, dried onion. Salt. Pepper.

Add brown sugar. Allow to simmer a bit. Taste. Re-season if necessary.

Lock lid on Instant Pot. Set vent to lock position. Process 5 minutes. When time is up, use a natural release. When the safety button sinks, remove lid. Simmer on saute, LOW setting, 15-30 minutes uncovered, until desired consistency is achieved. Stir occasionally.

*I believe this product is no longer available. While I have not yet used it, I will, in the future, substitute a Thai sweet chili sauce with garlic and add just a splash or two of the Worcestershire.